Nearly everywhere you turn, it seems that someone is saying that people – specifically Christians – ought to put their “religion” away. When you send your kids to the local public school, they may get in trouble for writing a report on a book of the Bible or for wearing an evangelical t-shirt. If you’re a teacher, you’re not allowed to pray publicly with your students (something that used to be commonplace in the U.S.). At work, you may have been told “not to proselytize.” Scholars everywhere discuss the ever-expanding definition of “separation of church and state,” entirely forgetting the original context of that principle.
Indeed, it seems that nearly everywhere we turn, there’s someone who would tell Christians to “keep their religion to themselves,” to “stop forcing their beliefs on others,” and that “it’s personal.” Of course, the debate on Christianity in the public square could take quite some time to discuss, and that’s not really what we’re here for. Instead, we’re here to discuss whether religion – Christianity in particular – hurts the pro-life movement.
Does Christianity have a place in convincing others of the pro-life position? Should Christians quote the Bible in pro-life debates? Or should they check their faith at the door, so as not to offend or alienate any secular pro-lifers who are out there? Here are three thoughts I have as a Christian pro-lifer, directed at other Christian pro-lifers.
1) Outspoken Christians – and the Bible – have had a major place in social reform throughout the centuries.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., the famous civil rights activist, was also a Christian pastor and often quoted from the Bible, basing many of his speeches off biblical passages.
- William Wilberforce, who not only was instrumental in ending the slave trade in Britain, but also fought for health care, for prison reform, and against cruelty to animals, was an outspoken Christian who was all for “imposing morals” on society. He said:
If … a principle of true Religion [i.e., true Christianity] should … gain ground, there is no estimating the effects on public morals, and the consequent influence on our political welfare.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, the “little lady who started this great war” that freed American slaves, was a preacher’s daughter and very fond of evangelizing. Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘s central character is a natural evangelist who clearly shares the message of Jesus. Stowe also wrote a booklet that was sent out to all the missionaries with China Inland Mission in 1869.
- The Salvation Army – an organization that helps with a huge variety of social reform, including substance abuse, homelessness, human trafficking, elderly services, prisoner rehabilitation, and veterans’ affairs – was started by William Booth, an evangelist, and his wife, Catherine. Today, the Salvation Army’s mission is still abundantly clear:
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
It’s pretty clear that many, many effective social reformers were outspoken Christians. They knew their facts, yes. They welcomed others into their movements, yes. But they also didn’t shy away from quoting the Bible and claiming Christ.
2) It is no more unifying to tell Christians to stop quoting the Bible than it is for Christians to be unwelcoming to secular pro-lifers.
The huge majority of pro-lifers are thrilled when anyone – Christian or not – joins our ranks. There is work for everyone to do, and there is a place for everyone, Christian or not. Each person should be welcomed fully into the pro-life movement. We ought to unite on the issues we can unite on. Any Christian who shuns a fellow pro-lifer because he or she is secular, an atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, etc. should stop immediately.
However, from my own experiences, I’ve seen very few Christians who would reject anyone who wants to work in the movement. We are happy each time someone new sees the truth about the preciousness and value of every human life. We welcome every new set of hands on deck.
In the same vein, secular pro-lifers (or pro-lifers of another religion) should not tell Christian pro-lifers to keep their Bibles to themselves, that quoting the Bible is “hurting the movement,” or that “spewing Bible verses” does not save a single life.
Any Christian knows that not everyone accepts the Bible. We are told, in fact, that many will be offended by it. We are commanded to season our speech with salt, to know how to answer every man, to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves – but still, to be the light of the world. We are not to hide the truth we know, and this includes our Savior and His Word. We can speak in wise and appropriate ways, but we don’t need to “be quiet” just because those who don’t believe as we do say we should.
3) We can focus on what unites and still be outspoken Christians – in fact, this is what we ought to do.
It is entirely true that a person does not have to be a Christian to be pro-life. Science, reason, logic, basic human rights, common decency, and general dignity all inform us that abortion is the killing of an innocent, helpless human being and that it ought not to be permitted. Christians would do well to learn scientific and philosophical arguments supporting the pro-life position. We ought to be able to defend our position from a variety of bases. In fact, this is essential to reaching the world at large.
However, just because other sources also provide a basis for being pro-life does not mean that Christians need to abandon the Bible or make an effort to stop quoting it. The Bible – and Christianity – are pro-life. That is true and valid, and we do not need to run from this. We should never be ashamed that we are Christian pro-lifers. We should never let anyone tell us to “leave God out of it” or to stop quoting the Bible.
Should we know our audience? Absolutely. Should we plan out the best way to persuade those we are speaking to? Most certainly. Should we welcome those with various religious viewpoints into the movement? Yes. Should we, basically, be wise in how we explain the pro-life position and be familiar with a variety of supporting facts? Without a doubt!
Yet none of this should lead us to conclude that religion hurts the pro-life movement or that we should hide the truth under a bushel. We are Christian pro-lifers. We are not ashamed to claim that, while science and reason can compel anyone to be pro-life, it is our God Who has compelled us to act pro-life. We are called – because we are Christians – to be silent no more and to speak out for the innocent, to stop oppression, and to stand against injustice.
Without the calling and the actions of Christian pro-lifers, the pro-life movement would likely not exist today – at least not in its present force. We must refuse to put our Christianity in the background; we must never check our faith at the door; and while we must be both wise and gentle, we should never silence the words of our Savior.